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A few blogs ago we talked about the full-sing jingle and its recent resurgence. I was suggesting that the format was more relevant now that commercials are often (for better or worse) shorter than thirty seconds. Music and singing are simply a faster means of setting an emotional tone and creating something more memorable than just voice and images. But something I didn’t consider at the time was the sound itself.

From the seventies to the nineties it felt like nearly every commercial was a full-sing jingle. Then around the turn of the millennium the full-sing jingle basically disappeared. This was not for a lack of efficacy. Sometimes things just fall out of fashion. So why did we get tired of jingles? Maybe it was because they all sounded the same.

Did you watch the whole thing? Neither did I.

Oxford dictionary defines ‘jingle’ as a short song or tune that is easy to remember and is used in advertising. Note that this definition makes no mention of the style of the music. This may be where things went wrong.

These days commercial music is made by sonic branding professionals as opposed to just songwriters or production houses, and the music is created based on brand attributes and data as opposed to arbitrary composition. A company that makes just jingles is not the same as a sonic branding agency. Beware of imitators! There are businesses out there that will create a jingle by just taking your name and maybe your slogan and making a silly song out of it. That’s not brand building.

Even worse, some will have a library of their own compositions and just shoehorn your name into one of them. About a year ago I had a discussion with an account rep about this very subject. He told me about a car dealer he worked with who was all excited to play him their new jingle. A few seconds in, the account rep started singing along. The car deal asked, “How did you do that? That’s our new jingle.” The account rep responded, “No. They’ve been using that in Peterborough for about twenty years.” That’s not brand building either. That’s an embarrassment. You tailor the music to the business, not the other way around.

In the last year or so we’ve had a number of very modern full-sing jingles come out of the woodwork. The interesting thing is you don’t always realize they’re jingles because they don’t sound like a traditional jingle. They just sound like music; music that just happens to be about a brand. Tic Tac has offered a few versions of Take a Ride. In this one they adjusted the music to match their tropical flavours.

Side Note: Notice how Tic Tac incorporated their unique product sound at the start. If you have a product that makes (or can make) an unique sound, you need to own it. Rice Krispies is actually a pretty boring cereal, but someone realized it made a sound. Snap, Crackle, and Pop has sustained that otherwise boring cereal for nearly a hundred years. We talked about products a while back in the Product Sounds blog.

Meow Mix recently brought back their famous meow, meow, meow, meow, but presented in a boy-band format with a cameo by N Sync’s J.C.

Quite often brands will make the mistake of licensing established pop songs for their ads. This practice has been driven mostly by record companies who are simply looking for new ways to make additional revenue from recorded music. It does comparatively little for the brand. More on this in the Brands Not Bands blog. Meow Mix was smart. They did something original and on-brand while still using an established artist. Ultimately if you want music to be a part of your brand, you want something that is ownable.

Another great thing about modern full-sings is they tend to be much more self-aware than the jingles of the past. Burger King has made themselves into a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and of course that’s reflected in the music.

Jingle is not a genre. It is a piece of music that sets the emotional tone of a brand. There are a lot of styles of music out there. At the same time there are a lot of brands with their own distinct qualities. There’s no reason for any two brands to sound the same.